Ducks · Life in the Countryside

Let’s get ducks

I’m not going to lie the past six months have been tough, really tough. Living in a caravan over winter has not been fun. I’ll do an update at some point on what’s been going on the past few months but first let me introduce you to our latest additions.

Yesterday, J and I were undertaking the rather arduous, and somewhat late, task of planting our seed potatoes in our newly dug bed when I began discussing where we might have our ducks and fruit cages. J has been desperate to get ducks for quite a while and we’d been putting it off as firstly, we’re quite busy and secondly we’ve struggled to locate a drake. Ultimately we plan to breed our ducks and use them for meat so we will need both males and females in the correct ratios. Anyway yesterday we decided to give our local poultry breeder a call to see what she had in stock and she had just hatched seven ducklings of one of a suitable breed. She was going to call us back once she had sexed them (not the easiest things to do with ducklings unless you are a professional). We decided to go and see them later that day and before we knew it she had called back to say there were two male and five female. It kind of seemed like fate to have almost perfect ratios so we just jumped in the car, with C of of course, and headed straight there. And yes, you’ve guessed it, we bought them all.

The breed is called Silver Appleyard and they are good layers, about 180 eggs a year each, and grow to a good size for meat. So we’ve been spending the past day getting to know them. Finding out what on earth to do with day old ducklings has involved lots of internet searching but we think we’ve got a handle on the basics. They’ll stay inside in their brooder (large box with a heat lamp) for about three weeks and then slowly be introduced to their new home outside. Which we don’t have yet. But for now it’s basically making sure that they have food and water and keep warm. One of our boys is weaker than the others and we’ve had to give him special attention by hand feeding him. We’ll update on him soon if he makes it through the night. The others had their first bath today. They loved it but we only kept them in for a short while as they don’t have the oil needed for waterproofing themselves. We’ll try to let them have a little swim every day if possible.

Life in the Countryside

BBQ time

So on Bank Holiday Monday we held a barbecue for some of our NCT (National Childbirth Trust, basically antenatal class) friends. In total there were seven adults, five toddlers and two babies. We had a couple of last minute replies to our invite so our numbers had doubled in the last 24 hours, which was after we had already planned the menu and had the food shop delivered. Thankfully we were able to adapt what we had planned and with a few last minute buys we had a decent enough menu (I think). Today’s menu included: burgers and buns, sausages, new potatoes in herb butter, sweet potato and feta salad, garlic mushrooms, corn on the cob, jacket potatoes, chicken, pepper and red onion kebabs and halloumi, chorizo and cherry tomato kebabs. We then had Eton mess for desert and had some bananas and chocolate buttons ready to go on the grill (but we’d had to move inside before we got the chance to do them due to the weather). We have a Weber BBQ which we purchased a couple of years ago and it is a proper beast. It has three burners and is gas fired and conveniently all of the parts which would come into contact with fat etc are removable and dishwasher safe (my favourite feature). 

In the UK a barbecue is almost an essential part of a bank holiday weekend. I thought I would have a little look at the food we cooked and what went well and what could be improved (can you tell I’m a teacher?!?) We had cheated somewhat by pre-cooking the jacket potatoes in the oven, so they were just wrapped in foil and kept warm on a shelf above the grill. The jackets had been a late addition anyway when we thought we may not have enough new potatoes. The new potatoes were boiled inside and then simple drained and swirled with butter ready to serve. We also had a favourite of ours on the warming shelf – garlic mushrooms. You basically take some portobello mushrooms and put a generous teaspoonful of garlic butter in the centre then wrap in foil to almost form a kind of parcel with the join at the top to provide a natural handle. Whilst they do taste wonderful they tend to go a bit watery so I may have to look at doing something different with them next time. For the first time this weekend we tried doing corn on the cob. We’d purchased what the supermarket call ‘cobettes’ which are just half a while cob of corn. I’m not really a fan of sweet corn myself but I know that J and C both love it, so I fancied giving it a try for them. Having read loads of recipes and suggestions online I went for a slight adaptation of one of the simplest. I sprayed the cobs with fry light and then wrapped them in foil so they looked like a cracker. They then joined the mushrooms and the jacket potatoes on the shelf above the griddle. 

Meat-wise we kept it fairly simple. We did burgers and buns (with sliced cheese to go in them of course) and sausages (without buns as we always seem to get a massive wastage of bread products after barbecues). Then we had two types of kebabs; chicken breast, red onion and red pepper which J had been initially keen to do in the oven to avoid the whole risk of undercooked chicken but he actually managed to keep them fairly moist, and halloumi, chorizo and red pepper. The latter is a new addition to our repertoire and I mainly did because I love halloumi and knew it would taste great grilled. A quick google search came up with this combination suggestion and I have to say they were a bit hit with both adults and toddlers alike. The recipe I found had suggested a nice dressing to accompany them but I stayed clear of dressings today because of fussy eaters. We also had my go to salad – feta and sweet potato. Basically a centre of salad leaves (unfortunately not from the garden yet but watch this space) with one chopped yellow pepper, sun dried tomatoes, cubed feta and oven cooked sweet potato cubes topping this. It works really well with a dressing like a Caesar dressing or something similarly creamy. 

So the big successes were the kebabs (both types) and actually the meat in general. The Eton mess went down well as did the new potatoes and the corn on the cob. The failures were the mushrooms, which ended up a bit watery and the jacket potatoes weren’t touched much (although they froze really well afterwards for future dinners). I feel like some kind of coleslaw would have been a nice addition to bring a more creamy edge and maybe some dipping sauces in substitute of marinades? It was a pity that it rained and the group had to be moved indoors as we obviously didn’t get to cook the bananas but they can be done in the oven and still similar results. I still feel like our barbecue cuisine is fairly limited and would like to expand our menu to include some more unusual food. Though what these could be I have no idea. 

chickens · Life in the Countryside

A day off

Today I had a bonus day off work and as C was already booked into childcare until 2, I took the day as a day to myself. I knew that if I spent any part of the day at home then I would end up doing chores. Not that that would be a bad thing, but as a bonus day off is a rare occurrence it seemed a shame to spend it doing the same things I do everyday. So today I had booked myself a massage and a facial first thing which was heavenly. Then, as I was nearby, I went to a fabric shop for a good old browse and a sneaky purchase of fabric for some outside cushions. Although I did feel a little guilty about not spending today with C or spending time making progress on the garden or cottage, having some ‘me time’ has done me the world of good and I now feel ready to tackle the busy few weeks at work and at home.

This afternoon C and I chilled at home, putting out fresh water for the sheep and chickens and ensuring the pots, raised beds and lazy beds are well watered. There looks to be the start of beetroot peeping through in one bed along with the turnips (which will require thining this weekend) but no sign of life in any of the others yet. And still no sign of life in the lazy beds, I will be very disappointed if we don’t get any potatoes after all that hard work. C and I did manage to discover a clue in the great egg mystery however. We found Boss in the nesting area just getting up from laying us a lovely egg. So maybe we only have one laying girl at the moment. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it does beg the question as to why Belle hasn’t started yet as she looks very ready to lay. I’ll make sure she’s fed some special treats this weekend to hopefully encourage her to join in the laying club.

This weekend is a bank holiday again, the joys of having a late Easter. Saturday J is busy for most of the day so, weather dependent, C and I might go for a swim and do some cooking. Sunday we’re seeing friends and then no doubt Monday will be spent doing some work on the garden.